Monday, December 12, 2011

Satellites and Flowers

This modified satellite image shows the area with the stone walls and rock outcrops that I pictured a couple blogs ago.  I used PhotoScape to convert a Google Earth in 3-D image into a negative black-and-white image to simulate snow, then added a horizontal fadeout at the top to give a bright sky effect (otherwise, the sky is totally black in the negative mode).  Our driveway along the base of the mountain is the squiggly line going up the middle.  The mountain to the left is forest and the lower land to the right is brushy meadow.

The driveway is about 3500 feet long and climbs 450 feet of elevation. Seven old logging trails branch off to the left from the main drive at 200 to 500-ft intervals. The mountainside averages nearly 45 degrees of slope, but the lateral trails snake along nearly flat terraces atop the rock bluffs.  A few intervals of rock bluff show as short horizontal black lines in the image, but most of the bluffs are well hidden by trees that are 80 to 100 feet tall.

The logging trails peter out wherever the terraces narrow down too much to provide flat ground for trail-building.  The timber is noticeably older in the steep areas where trails are absent. Lumber from trees such as that exhibit high strength and wear resistance when used for floors, countertops and the like due to the trees’ slower growth rate and more closely spaced growth rings.  The wood also has higher density, and that means higher BTU content in firewood. But except for windfalls and culls that can be snaked out with cable, our old growth timber will stay as is.

This and the following picture are of Eastern Wahoo, or Strawberry Bush berries.  Deer and birds love the berry, so it’s difficult to find them still hanging on the bush.  Each lobe of the berry contains a single large, bright red seed the size of a peppercorn.  The first picture is from above, looking down at the top of the fruit.

From below, you can see how the red seeds peek through as the berry matures.  Eastern Wahoo is a native bush that grows up to 10 feet tall (the ones I’ve found are half that size). It has a small purple flower that is easy to miss, and it grows in deep woods from New England to Wisconsin and south to Texas.  Despite the fact that I’ve spent much time in the forests over much of the Wahoo range, this is the first year I’ve come across the plant.  I took these pictures near Music Creek in the Arkansas Ozarks early this November.
Propagation of the Wahoo plant is supposed to be as simple as placing a small branch in a glass of water where it will grow roots in about a week: the same way you root willow twigs.  It’s a pretty and very unique berry.  I plan to propagate some to plant in shady areas around the house next year, but a caution – I’ve read that both the leaves and berries are mildly toxic to humans.
I missed catching it in bloom, but the picture here is a portion of a 7-foot tall compass plant stalk about half way up that shows the hairy inch-diameter stalk, the strange leaves and seed heads present just after the first frost. Click to enlarge the picture - It looks better that way!  I hope to photograph the flowers the next time I visit the area.
I found it in a small clearing in the woods.  The name comes from the plant’s habit of growing its fan of basal leaves to face the sun’s path from east to west so that the edges of the fan face north and south. A stalk as tall as a garden sunflower shoots up from the basal leaves and yellow flowers the size of teacups grow on short branches off the stalk and at its top.  When I found the plants, I assumed they were some sort of sunflower, but the flower book says they are actually members of the aster family, with seeds at the periphery of the seed heads rather than across the flat center as in the sunflower.
The compass plant’s leaves are one to two feet long, and have the shape of a buck’s antlers in early velvet.  It’s so strikingly different than anything else that I’m certain I’ve not encountered it before.  It’s a prairie flower, though, not expected in wooded areas.  I wonder what bird carried the seeds from the Kansas prairie and dropped them in this little clearing?  
                                                                                                     Merry Christmas!

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